Nanfu Wang’s body of work navigates the documentary dilemma addressed yesterday:
Hooligan Sparrow, One Child Nation, and now In the Same Breath all detail the sociopolitical history — past and present — of China. To humanize the real-world effects that the state has on its citizens, Wang turns the camera on herself, to show how China’s sociopolitics shape certain conditions of her life. This “navel-gazing” doesn’t feel like a tacked-on lens, because it’s so intrinsically related to the documentary’s ultimate focus: how China’s sociopolitics influence the lives of the country’s population (and, in turn, how the population interacts with these sociopolitics). Her intimate perspective on concepts as macro as governmental policies grounds them in the sort of lived reality often overlooked in sociopolitical-overview documentaries.
Wang’s oeuvre is becoming an unfolding history textbook crossed with a video diary. She’s telling not only a portion of China’s modern history; her documentaries also chart her progression as a human being, and as a filmmaker, and the role China’s sociopolitics play in all of the above.